Ohio Colleges And Universities Launch New Formula

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UPDATE 6:00 PM Ohio's public colleges and universities got a peek Friday at how they will fair under a newly forged agreement on state funding that encourages collaboration and emphasizes student graduation over enrollment.

State projections indicate most institutions will receive increases in the first year of Gov. John Kasich's proposed $63.2 billion, two-year budget, with 17 of the state's 61 universities, branch campuses and community colleges expected to receive cuts.

State higher education funding rises overall in the budget's first year, about 2 percent to $1.78 billion.

State Budget Director Tim Keen said one new element of the formula is that it will be based on average graduation figures over a three-year period, while past set-asides for certain campuses are being phased out.

Bruce Johnson, president of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, which represents Ohio's 14 public four-year universities, said the approach carries inherent risk for the institutions but they understand that more Ohioans need to get degrees for the state to succeed. The state's graduation rate is about 25 percent.

"Of course, you want higher rates of graduation because to some degree resources are wasted when a student attempts to complete a degree and fails," said Johnson, Ohio's former lieutenant governor and development director. "But the most important issue for the state's economy is that the total number of graduates goes up."

Ohio State University is projected to receive a 3 percent increase under the plan, with three branch campuses experiencing cuts. OSU President E. Gordon Gee helped work out the funding deal, which Kasich has praised for its innovation. Kent State and Cleveland State would see increases of more than 5 percent, Wright State of 3.5 percent and others smaller increases.

Overall, five universities, seven branch campuses and five community colleges are expected to receive cuts.

Bowling Green would see a reduction in state funding of 4.2 percent under the new formula, with lesser cuts headed to Shawnee State (2.4 percent) and Central State (2.1 percent). The universities of Akron and Toledo would see cuts of less than 1 percent.

Owens State would face the steepest cut among community colleges, a reduction of 3 percent, followed by Rio Grande (2.1 percent), Lakeland (1.6 percent), Clark State (0.5 percent) and Cuyahoga State (0.4 percent).

Keen said additional money is set aside for community colleges based on certain "success points" in educational achievement that are being identified.

"There's also additional work that's going to be done on the success point part of the formula, to try to identify other factors that meet the goal of not only graduation but also what is successful completion at the two-year sector," he said. "There's thought going on at the Board of Regents about standardized certificates that students in the two-year sector might achieve."